Who Looks Outside, Dreams; Who Looks Inside, Awakens

This post’s title is Carl G. Jung’s most famous quote. I chose it because it speaks to our very intuition about self-knowledge and personal growth. There is no need to be a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a yogi to recognize the timeless value of looking inside ourselves to recover the clarity, balance, and higher purpose that are stolen from us by the frenetic rhythm of today’s life.

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Jung’s contributions to the development of modern psychology are undeniable. Even his detractors acknowledge the value of his work on the universal symbols of the unconscious mind and their impact on human behavior. Personally, Jung has had a strong influence on the way I interpret human behavior and on the coaching and consulting tools I have developed over the years. In fact, Jung’s quote in the title inspired me to write The Parable of the Room, which tells the hidden story of so many men and women who pursue success while stifling their souls. Here is the parable; I hope you enjoy it.

A successful professional was exhausted and strained by his many duties. After much self-debate, he decided to go see a spiritual master who lived nearby. Once there, the Master asked him to sit down and take a detailed look at the room. The man, assuming he would be asked questions about the room’s contents, tried to memorize as many details as possible. The Master let him be. After a while, the Master asked the man to close his eyes, and then inquired, “Are your eyes fully closed?” The man, somewhat excited, answered, “Yes.” Then, the Master asked him, “What do you see?” The man, a little more excited, answered, “I see the room.” So the Master told him, “That’s your problem.” The man, confused, could not help but open his eyes, and inquired, “What do you mean?” The Master replied, “You let the outside world define your inside world—so much so, in fact, that when you close your eyes, you still see the outside. You always know where you are, but you hardly know who you are. You will always adapt well, but you are here because you forgot who you are.” “What should I do?” the man asked. The Master responded, “From now on, when you close your eyes, see beyond the imprint from the outside; that will be your new beginning.”

The Parable of the Room is meant to remind us that, even though the maps of life may vary across time, the compass is always inside of us. This parable is at the very beginning of my book The Seventh Distinction, a manuscript written to help people pursue success by being “awake,” not “asleep.”

What do you think?

Does Jung’s quote speak to you in any particular way? Have you ever felt like the man in The Parable of the Room? What do Jung’s quote and The Parable of the Room have to do with the difference between knowledge and consciousness? What role does consciousness play in the pursuit of success?

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